Aggravation:The Effect of Pre-Existing Medical Conditions on Personal Injury Claims

Clients who have medical conditions that predate their motor vehicle collisions often question what effect their medical history will have on their personal injury claim. While seemingly straightforward, this can sometimes be a complex question to answer.

In Virginia, a plaintiff in a personal injury case is entitled to full and fair compensation for their bodily injuries, medical expenses incurred as a result of those injuries, pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and any lost wages. [1] However, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the accident caused the specific injuries that are being claimed for compensation purposes.

Legally, pre-existing conditions should have no impact on a personal injury case. However, from a practical perspective, if you had a bad back before the accident, it can be somewhat difficult to establish that the motor vehicle collision caused your current back pain. Almost always, insurance adjusters or defense attorneys will identify your pre-existing medical condition as the largest obstacle to financial recovery.

To hurdle this obstacle, a plaintiff must present a clear and well-documented depiction of his or her physical condition both before and after the accident. The following steps can help a plaintiff do this, and meet his or her burden of proof.

  • Immediately after the accident, describe your current physical condition to the first treating medical provider that you see and explain that you were injured in a motor vehicle collision. This will help to establish that you are suffering from new injuries that were caused by a distinct traumatic event.
  • Return to the treating medical provider that knows your pre-accident condition the best and explain the difference in both the location and degree of their pain as clearly as possible. For example, changes or increases in pain should be documented. Then, the medical provider can testify that the collision caused aggravation to your pre-existing condition.
  • Document the quality of your life both before and after the accident. For example, if you were on the road to recovery, but were set back as a result of the accident, this change speaks directly to your damages.
  • Identify witnesses such as a spouse, close friend or co-worker who is familiar with your progress and subsequent regression as a result of the accident. They can provide a clear before-and-after comparison of your medical condition.

Virginia law is designed to protect people who are injured through no fault of their own, and this applies regardless of whether those people had pre-existing medical conditions or not. By focusing your claim around the before and after, you will increase your chances of obtaining a full and fair recovery.

If you or someone you know has aggravated a pre-existing medical condition in a motor vehicle collision, the experienced attorneys of Allen and Allen are happy to assist. Call us for a free consultation.

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Christopher J. Toepp

Licensed since 2008

Member at firm Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen

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